Saunders: We needn’t fear Al Jazeera

March 11, 2013 

One of my favorite passages, from the prophet Michael (Corleone, of “The Godfather), says “Keep your friends close ... and your enemies closer.”

At least, that is, close enough to know what they’re watching on television.

If the Al Jazeera television network really is the preferred network of terrorists everywhere, as some fear, that is all the more reason that we in the U.S. and the Triangle should have access to it, too.

Yet Time Warner Cable dropped the network that would’ve been replaced by the Arab-based Al Jazeera America network, and it will not be available to viewers here when it debuts, presumably later this year.

How come? Is it because the suits at Time Warner Cable don’t think we unsophisticated weedbenders down here are intelligent enough to separate the wheat from the chaff – to understand the alleged propaganda being spun by Al Jazeera? Do they fear that the softer-brained among us, after being exposed to the network, will suddenly let our beards grow long and rush out to join the Taliban?

First of all, Al Jazeera has won praise internationally for its journalistic objectivity.

Second, even without prompting from Al Jazeera, some of our conservative legislators are already exhibiting Talibanish behavior. So far this year, they’ve proposed legislation that would, among other things, throw women in jail for exposing nipples in public – not a big problem here – and allow the Bible and guns in schools.

Now, tell me what respectable Talibaner wouldn’t applaud all of those measures?

No clamor to keep it

Time Warner Cable spokesman Keith Poston pointed out to me that Time Warner never dropped Al Jazeera: it dropped Current, the network co-founded by Al Gore and purchased by Al Jazeera.

“We were actually looking at channels like Current (to drop) because of low ratings,” Poston said. “The final decision hadn’t been made, but then Current made its decision to sell, and at that point it gave us the opportunity to cancel the contract.”

Poston said, “We’re keeping an open mind about Al Jazeera English.” Whether TWC carries it here, he said, “would be a matter of customer interest versus cost versus our evaluation of the programming, and if we think it’s something that would bring value to our family of channels.”

He said he wasn’t aware of a public clamor to provide Al Jazeera or to keep it off the air, even though customers are very willing to share their feedback on programming, commercials and anything else.

The main thing we gripe about, he said, is sports programming when a favorite team’s game is not available.

Amen. Several years ago I called the local cable company to ask why we were being subjected to the plodding Indiana-Wisconsin NCAA basketball game when Duke and Carolina were playing?

The lady calmly explained, “Sir, you’re in Indiana.”

Point taken. Still, we should be able to see what’s on the so-called enemy’s preferred viewing channel for the same reason men read “Cosmo” magazine: to know what the other side is plotting.

Besides, there is no way that what’s available on Al Jazeera – available online – could be as damaging to the psyches of Americans as the current diet of various “Real Housewives of ...” and the innumerable shows featuring loud, angry women who always seem to be tossing a drink in each others’ faces.

Man, give me Al Jazeera over the Kardashians any day.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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